9 Essential Features To Look For In A Warehouse Management System

Warehousing itself could be seen as a niche market behind the scenes with so many functions that it could benefit from being done more efficiently. This is especially true since managing one entails juggling various responsibilities, which may leave managers and business owners overwhelmed with their day-to-day operations. 

But thanks to various technological advances today, the overseeing and managing of warehouse activities has been made convenient and less complex. Businesses worldwide have implemented management systems that would assist their staff to be more productive and for the company to thrive. 


What Is Warehouse Management System 

Essentially, a warehouse management system aids in streamlining tasks such as receiving, registering, and storing products and inventory with intelligent functions. These systems can simplify your organization’s workflow resulting in higher productivity and efficiency rates.  

And as such, it’d be ideal to use this technological advancement to your business’s advantage. Finding the correct application that matches your company’s needs and requirements can be a great start.  


To help you get started, this article will outline some of the essential features to look for in a warehouse management system.  


1. Scanner Compatibility 

Most goods and products received into a warehouse are scanned by barcode scanners to add and register them to the inventory. When large amounts of goods are processed daily, scanners can make the receiving or dispatch of these items faster. 

Depending on the size of the operation and the type of products handled by the specific warehouse, the scanners could be handheld or operated with other machinery like conveyor belts for even faster processing. These scanners would read the barcodes on each product, which would differ from product to product. 

Some warehouses use a two-in-one process that would include an automated dimension measurement tool that records the dimensions of the received goods along with the barcode. This information would have to be processed and stored for use, and the warehouse management system would assist with that. 

When purchasing or implementing such a system, the company should ensure that it is compatible with their scanners and other equipment to integrate everything. 


2. Real-time Data Processing 

A warehouse’s primary function is to store goods until customers need them. So, once a purchase order is received, the products can be dispatched and delivered to the customer. 

Usually, the company’s sales representatives send a purchase order to the warehouse to put together the correct goods for delivery or collection. But the purchase order can only be processed and pushed through when there’s sufficient stock in the inventory. And that’s where accurate records come in. However, the correct information would be available only if the system operates in real-time. The database will present all the available items, making finalizing the orders and dispatch easier and less complex.  

More so, receiving new stocks would also be recorded in real-time, so there is a constant flow of products visible on the system. As such, the availability of information becomes very important for the other departments that could have access to these figures. 


3. Inventory Location Control 

Thousands of items could be received or dispatched from a warehouse at any time. The sheer volume of goods being handled would indicate that a solid management system would be needed. 

Planning the warehouse space and ensuring that all similar items are systematically stored together would be one of the tasks a sound warehouse management system would efficiently perform. The warehouse management system would have all the goods identified, their location recorded, and storage requirements are taken into account.  

Knowing where everything is located in a massive warehouse would make it easy for employees to find. Instead of remembering where everything is, staff could access the various items swiftly. 


4. Products Picking And Packing Possibilities 

The picking and packing of items for a customer’s order are just one of the complex processes that aren’t prone to errors. For instance, goods need to be put together as one order, and picking the various items and putting them together in the best possible way before packaging them to ensure they arrive safely can be quite a lengthy and tedious process. 

Additionally, packaging should be done according to the specifications of the product. When a product is fragile, more packaging material would then be required, and cold shipments should be packaged in a way that would prevent an increase in temperature, for example. 

As such, the warehouse management system could be most helpful. The specifications of each order and its packaging requirements could be noted by the warehouse management system, giving instructions and directions to the warehouse staff. 


5. Improved Product Tracking And Monitoring 

Sound warehouse management software should allow you to track and manage all of your resources. This means that you should be able to monitor how your product moves. This includes its arrival to the warehouse, the staff who received and stored the products, internal and external transactions, order picking, dispatch, and even up to the step of your product being delivered to your customer.  

This feature can significantly help you assess your operations, allowing you to see which areas in your organization need revisiting and reorganizing. For instance, you can monitor how fast or slow dispatch is. And from there, you can make a more informed decision on how to further improve your processes, thus enhancing productivity and efficiency rates.  


6. Can Be Integrated With Financial Software 

The billing department would have to keep track of all the financial aspects of the business. Expenses, income, profit, loss, and many other economic indicators could provide valuable information to the management team. 

When the warehouse management system can be integrated with the financial system, it can make for a smoother operation between the moving of products in the warehouse and the invoices and statements needed for these items. 

More so, in a warehouse, as a safety measure, no products will be moved, picked, or packed without a valid purchase order and invoice for the client. Some companies have a policy that payment should be received before the goods are shipped, whereas other clients may have accounts. The billing department would need access to figures from the warehouse to keep track of all this information and properly process all the orders and payments. 

In addition, other information that the billing department would keep tabs on would be purchasing the goods. Companies would have to buy or produce their stock for sale. Goods purchased or brought into the warehouse need a purchase order to accompany them. Integrating financial and warehouse management systems makes the task easier for all. 


7. Can Generate Various Reports 

A sound management system for any department would have to have analytics options for generating reports. These reports are necessary for any business to ensure that all the figures add up and the company is doing well. 

Having access to on-demand reports would benefit the business, and staff could send these reports to line managers when they request them. Delivery reports, shipping inventories, return documentation, picking, and packing lists. Various other pieces of information could be ordered from management, and a warehouse management system should be able to provide it effortlessly. 


8. Can Be Customized 

Each business has its operational necessities. This includes manpower management, product handling, and workflow policies. As such, an efficient management system should be in place.  

Some of the best software options on the market have customization opportunities where companies could ask for certain parts of the software to be adapted according to their business’s needs. This means that instead of running various software programs or having manual processes for some of the functions, they could be successfully added to the warehouse management system. 

More so, some software generally has options for customization, or they could specialize in a specific niche to help companies with the functions they would need for their operations. There could also be different packages to choose from that would supply more or less functions according to the budget and needs of the company. 


9. Connection To The Cloud 

Information storage, communication, and many other things can now be done through the cloud in a digital era. A warehouse management system that could operate with the cloud would be ideal for companies that want an instant connection to their system from anywhere. 

Warehouse staff would not be part of the remote workers in general, which is understandable. However, other members of the organization working remotely would probably still need access to the system to complete their tasks. For instance, members from departments such as billing and sales. Or in some cases, the management team may not be stationed in the same country as the warehouse. For these reasons, cloud connectivity is essential. 


The Takeaway 

Companies all function uniquely, even though some operational aspects may be similar. And at the end of the day, the goal is to be more efficient and productive in their operations. But managing the heart of business operations shouldn’t be something that causes more stress than joy. And as such, having a sound warehouse management system can significantly help business owners achieve seamless and streamlined warehouse processes. 

Considering the features mentioned above can be a good start in guiding you when looking for sound and reliable warehouse management that meets your business’s needs and requirements. 

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Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.

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